Purpose and Design: The purpose of the Blue Alternative Project is the comprehensive restoration of degraded regions of the Cheyenne River Reservation, to retain as much water in the country as possible. This solution does not lie in expanding existing systems or building new dams and technological water infrastructure. Alternatively, the project seeks to build a series of rainfall catchments or berms, which mimic the natural terracing of the prairie, and are made of completely local and natural materials. These catchments will prevent soil erosion, decrease water runoff and improve water quality and quantity, greatly improving the quality of the land.
The best preventive measures against droughts, fires, floods and natural disasters lie in the three-step water resource protection approach as follows:
- to retain rainfall at the spot – retaining
- to store excess water locally – storing
- to drain the part of rainwater that the land has not absorbed – draining
For the initial pilot Blue Alternative Project, the Swiftbird community has been identified for the building of these catchments. This is an excellent area for the pilot project, due to the significant number of eroding ravines that surround the communities, community concerns over water quality and quantity, and a high rate of tribal members in need of employment – which this project can and will provide.
These strategies have been implemented successfully elsewhere. The People and Water Coalition, with funding from the Slovak Government’s Land Restoration Program in Slovakia implemented these same strategies and over the course of during one year, citizens took measures that improved the small water cycle in 488 communities, greatly diminished flooding risks. The measures were funded from public resources, and their additional benefit was their social and economic impact because 7,700 jobs were created at the local level to implement the measures.
Target Population: This project seeks to serve the entire Cheyenne River Reservation population. All tribal members will be positively impacted by improved water quality and quantity and the resulting improvements to our land base. It is possible that not all tribal members will “buy-in” to the Blue Alternative Project ideas and philosophy. However, it is our firm belief that, once the pilot project is implemented in the Swiftbird community, other residents will get excited about the positive impacts to the land. The proposed project is expected to yield numerous socio-economic benefits for local communities. The proposed project will have positive effects on employment opportunities for inhabitants of the specified communities. It is estimated that around 80 job positions will be created throughout the implementation of the first project. The newly employed will be working on the construction of the various proposed measures for the retention of rainwater on land. Through such measures, the newly employed will have the opportunity to obtain new valuable skills which they can put to use in the future.